Last night we had one player move to the Doctor's Office Town space with one wound left. He wanted to use the special ability of the Doctor's Office prior to drawing an event card so that he could heal himself before encountering something from the event deck that could potentially cause damage to his character and possibly kill him off. At the time, we ruled that he would have to take the event card first since it is the first thing listed on the text for the space. As it turns out, he ended up drawing a "Duel of Honor" card. While he did survive the encounter (barely), he very well could have been killed. Should we have allowed him to heal his character first instead?
Generally, I would say that since the drawing of the event card is mandatory and the heal action is optional, the drawing of the event card happens first. However, the rules do say:
The town of Shadowbrook is divided into a number of spaces. Each of these spaces allows the Hero to draw an Event card when Encountering the space as well as a special ability that can be used when Encountering the space.
Every other named space has game text printed on the board. To Encounter any of these spaces, follow the game text listed there. You will notice that most of the Town spaces also have one or more special abilities which may be used while Encountering the Space (for instance, at the Doctor’s Office you may Heal and /or Cure a Curse in addition to the Draw an Event game text). These Town space special abilities are always optional.
That kind of sounds like the intent of the special abilities may be to help deal with the event cards drawn during the encounter. If that's the interpretation, I'd rule that you can heal first, but that might be a bit of a stretch. "Encountering the space" seems to mean the entire interaction with the space, not just the event card.
Since there isn't a definitive answer in anything I can find, I'd go with the rule-of-thumb that mandatory happens before optional.